Ahoy, Mateys (sorry) and welcome to our look at the, uh, Ahoy Mateys deck from the Ixalan precons. This is a precon with a particular tribal theme, that being Pirates, but instead of a simple tribal aggro deck, there are some really fun possibilities buried under the surface of this shell. The deck as is isn’t bad, giving you the option of running either Admiral Brass, Unsinkable, the original Admiral Beckett Brass, or Don Andrews, the Renegade as your commander. I actually don’t really like Unsinkable Brass that much for what I think this deck can do with some tweaking, so for this upgrade article, we’re going to assume you’re running the original Admiral Beckett Brass instead. Why? Because we’re PIRATES, and you know what Pirates do (This is rhetorical, please don’t answer it)? They steal! So let’s take advantage of Beckett stealing things when you swing at your opponent and use Don Andrews to buff the things you steal, as well as cutting some cards to make the deck less jank. Specifically, I have ten cards that I suggest adding at the end to help you in your plundering endeavors so you can really sail the high seas at game night.
Before we begin, here’s the list for the deck as it comes in the box so you can see what scallywags you’re dealing with:
Key Cards from the Precon:
There are a lot of really decent pirate bodies in this deck already, and we don’t really want to mess too much with that part of the deck. So, when it comes to cutting creatures, we want to be selective; that said, almost all of them are worth running, and the ones that aren’t we’ll talk about in a bit. Even cheap creatures like Departed Deckhand can be incredibly valuable for their evasion, Hostage Taker is always a valuable card and even better in the type of deck we’re going for, and cards like Fathom Fleet Captain can help us fill out the board with more pirate bodies as we ramp up to steal.
The biggest thing is which commander we are running: Original Beckett Brass and Don Andres. About the only reason we aren’t running Don Andres as the commander is because his effect is more of an anthem than it is anything else; we really want Beckett Brass’s ability to steal things when we swing and use Don Andres to buff our creatures and give everything we have the creature type Pirate, making it easier to steal things off of Beckett, and also helping to make our creatures stronger.
Breeches, Brazen Plunderer is a great piece for this plan. The built in Menace helps Breeches trigger his own activated ability, but if you have multiple pirates on the field that can swing in and damage opponents, you’re exiling things from your various opponents and possibly casting them for your own use. If Don Andres is on the field, this also gives you some treasure tokens.
Captivating Crew and Coercive Recruiter help you in your plundering and pressganging by letting you steal your opponent’s stuff. Importantly, this is where you want Don Andres around, because creatures you don’t own become Pirates while he is on the board.
Herald’s Horn is a nice include in the pre-con that helps because every creature you want to run in your deck should be a Pirate, and this can help you fill your hand and thin your deck. Black Market Connections is also a pretty nice included Enchantment, because your deck wants to be mildly aggressive and flood the board with things. You’ll also want some recursion for when all of your creatures die, but don’t worry. We’ll get to that; the deck itself doesn’t have much in this regard, but Grim Captain’s Locker can serve in a pinch. I don’t really like it though, as it is expensive; it is unlikely you’re going to use it, activate it, and cast creatures from your graveyard also.
Aside from the usual suggestions of the miserable lands that come in pre-con decks for better dual-lands like Sulfur Falls, Shivan Reef and Drowned Catacombs, you can likely dump one of the Terramorphic Expanses or Evolving Wilds for a Maestros Theater. They do the same thing, but Maestros Theater nets you a life, so hey! Value. I’m not a huge fan of Wayfarer’s Bauble either. Something like Chromatic Lantern, Heraldic Banner, or both would be great to replace the one time use map. At 37 lands, you really shouldn’t be running into mana problems that you need to thin it like that.
I also really don’t like Arm-Mounted Anchor or Bident of Thassa, so we can remove those as well. We aren’t an equipment aggro deck, and they’re both fairly expensive (Bident even wants double blue). The included instants aren’t bad, but you can absolutely dumpster Chaos Warp for something more useful. Frankly, just more instant speed removal would be a better option. I also am not a huge fan of Windfall unless you want to run it to mess with your opponents, and Distant Melody is situational. In a good position, you draw a ton of cards off your pirates. In a bad position, you draw very little.
As far as creatures are concerned, I think many of the cuts for creatures come down to selectively removing creatures whose effects are not entirely helpful to the style of stealing we’re going for in this rebuild. Timestream Navigator is a perfect example. Yes, an extra turn is cool. Are we going for a Timestream combo win? No? Get that out of here then. Kari Zev and Enterprising Scallywag are also cuts you can make. Not because they are bad, but if we’re going to spruce the place up, they can be replaced by some things that work a little better. The two I like the least and think are easy cuts are Amphin Mutineer and Angrath’s Marauders, though, so feel free to take those out.
I don’t think there’s anything terrible in this deck, and honestly, if you played it as it is and just swapped Beckett Brass into your Commander instead of Unsinkable, you’d probably be in good shape. The lands and equipment are the weakest places this deck is put together, but that seems to be standard for pre-con decks.
There are a lot of solid and easy adds to this deck. For example, Metallic Mimic and Adaptive Automaton are great includes, as are cards like Changeling Outcast to take advantage of the Typing of your deck. Forerunner of the Coalition is a really solid addition because of the fact that every creature in your deck (ideally) is a Pirate, so you can easily tutor up whichever creature you want for whatever situation you would like to use it for. Also, you get the drain ability to trigger very easy, meaning that it fulfills the role of being a Pirate for your deck, tutoring a Pirate, and then becoming a ‘must remove’ target. Another solid Pirate include is Lightning-Rig Crew, which can become an easy wincon engine with the fact that your deck only has pirates in it. Neither of these creatures helps with your ability to steal cards from your opponent, though, so do keep that in mind.
Also, instants like Siphon Insight are a pretty solid include, allowing you to directly steal cards from your opponents, and Memory Deluge is a solid way to filter through your deck. Both cards have the ability of Flashback, which helps if you play them early and need a little fuel later.
For my Top Ten includes, though, let’s get a little more… larcenous.
One of the Dr. Who cards, the goal of this card is to hit the board, steal something from your opponent, and get you some card draw. If you’ve been building momentum and stealing creatures, removing the counters from this card might be very quick and easy, but the real value here is a 4 mana steal a creature, swing, draw a card, that might eventually become a problem for your opponents as it gets bigger.
By asking your opponents to select Fame or Fortune, there’s really not many downsides here. You can take advantage of snagging a creature from someone and then using it against them or get yourself a card and a treasure. Since it is Sorcery speed, most of the things your opponents may steal by selecting Fame may not be overly impactful either, or if you’ve set up properly, the thing you steal is going to be a Pirate that swings for a heavy blow. That said, this card may rely a bit on situational use (nothing on the board, not worth using, etc.) so it’s a good add but not the best.
You get three turns to take advantage of your opponent’s board here, and the value of Chapter I increases the more opponents you have. For six mana, that means you might net yourself 3 valuable creatures, and the ability to target those creatures is very nice as well, since they do not gain haste or untap when you snag them, so you may want to pick stuff that has immediate impact (or just take something threatening away). The second chapter here works great with a lot of the synergies we’re going for–having creatures we don’t own–so this can be an effective way to refill your hand as your board grows. The third option is selective removal, and although your opponents get to select things as well, hopefully your board is so diverse and scary that there aren’t many good targets for them (or, you can easily get them back, like your Commander).
Probably the best ‘Gain Control of Target Creature’ spell because of the fact that it is instant speed and can be cast with Phyrexian mana means that you can even take advantage of this when it isn’t your turn to attack. Just snag someone’s creature and use it to block, or just fizzle an attack, or do all sorts of odd things. Steal someone’s Commander, even! The real benefit here is to get something to your side of the board but think creatively with Act of Aggression; there are plenty of Sorcery speed spells, like Hijack, that can do this too, but not at instant speed.
The biggest downside to Agent is the mana cost, but let’s look at this holistically. If you are running a deck that is heavily stealing from your opponent’s decks, there’s a very good chance that you are going to be able to trigger Agent’s draw three ability very often. Even if you can’t flicker him to keep stealing things from other players, that doesn’t matter quite as much here as the constant drawing of cards. Sadly, he’s not a Pirate, but we can overlook that for draw three on a stick that steals you a *permanent* on entry, permanently.
At UUX, you get the ability to steal a creature from your opponent permanently, and if the creature is big, you even get to make a copy of it. Sadly the copy doesn’t mean much for us in terms of our turning that thing into a Pirate and using it against our opponent, but it’s pretty rare that a creature we’re stealing for 5 CMC or more isn’t worth having 2 of, so we can overlook that part.
An artifact that lets you steal a creature until the end of turn is nice, because it doesn’t require you to have a specific set of mana colors open in which to use it. Also, this is an ETB trigger and not a cast trigger, meaning that it may be harder for your opponents to mess with if they want to try and interact with you. It gets you an easy trigger for not owning something and using it against your opponent, and then after that wears off, you can always use the secondary effect to drain someone else or heal yourself if you need to.
While Horus Heresy gets you as many creatures as you have opponents, Akroan war pays off for the other abilities it brings to the table. Stealing a creature for 3 turns is great, forcing your opponents to attack into possibly bad situations is better, and then possibly wiping the entire board clean and restarting can be the best way to reset things in your favor if you ensure your creatures you want to keep aren’t tapped when chapter III rolls around (which, realistically, they shouldn’t be, so that’s pretty simple!).
Big Daddy Bolas may not be a pirate, but he sure is a boss. Let’s look at this card objectively: You can just destroy things on a stick unless your opponent can remove him every turn, or you can start off by just stealing creatures. And it is important to note that Bolas does not steal them until end of turn, that creature is just yours until they die. We really don’t even care about the -9, because if Bolas gets to the point that he can -9, something went really wrong in your opponent’s game. Instead, we like him here as targeted hard removal for annoying noncreature things (lands count, by the way) and stealing some stuff. The biggest downside is his cost, but Nicol Bolas rarely doesn’t pay for himself.
What’s a really easy way to clear up the board and start taking control of creatures you don’t own? Well, having an artifact that slams into the table and wipes things out, and then lets you selectively re-animate a target every turn is a great start. The minor wipe effect is solid unless you’re up against something that goes really wide, and even then it’s still denting their forces a little bit. If your opponents don’t have removal for artifacts, then Portal starts really paying for itself the longer it lets you continually re-animate things from graveyards. The biggest problem we have for it in this deck is mana, but wouldn’t it be really, really funny to wipe the board with Blood Money and then cast Portal off of it?
I like either of these Planeswalkers for this spot for different reasons. They’re actually very similar, and you could argue that Angrath is more on flavor because he is a pirate in this incarnation, but both Planeswalkers have a -3, Gain Control of Target Creature Until End of Turn… except Geyadrone lets you ALTERNATIVELY take a Planeswalker, and if you can get her to stick around long enough to spread corruption counters, that -7 in our deck looks MIGHTY attractive. There’s a good chance she dies really early, though, as does Angrath. You could even include both, if you like, and be even more disruptive, and they give recurring ‘steal your stuff’ triggers if you start running low on spells or creature effects to do it for you.
A recent addition to magic, this adventure sorcery/enchantment is a great addition to the type of deck we want to run here. You get a cheap removal spell that can easily take down something minor but important, or even weaken a bigger enemy (or kill it after a bad block), and then also gain yourself some life. Then, later, you can replay it for 7 mana to start re-animating things from Graveyards during your upkeep. Pairing this with Portal to Phyrexia is a NASTY combo, letting you re-animate or even steal 2 creatures a turn from whatever graveyard you please. And, since you get the dual nature of the spell, it has some early viability while you build to 7 mana, and 7 mana is a lot easier to potentially cast than 9 for Portal.
Overall, this is a pretty fun little pre-con deck as it is. You could sit down with this and have a good time, assuming your opponents had lower power or other pre-con decks, but to make this something special and more fun, it would be better to lean into the idea of stealing things from your opponents. There are a lot more options for that as well if you want to go away from the Pirate flavored aspect, but in that case, you are better off perhaps not running either of the pirate commanders, and I think you’d essentially be building an entirely new deck at that point. Working with the flavor of the pirates we have, there are many easy ways to tweak this deck to make stealing things more consistent and more threatening, forcing your opponents to have answers to things like Enchantments, Planeswalkers, Artifacts, and evasive aggro. This deck might make you a target at the table for mucking about with other people’s plans, but you can certainly have a lot of fun while doing it! So get out there and hit the high seas with some new pirate friends, and mabe a Dragon God. I dunno. Give him a really big hat or something.
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